Sunday, February 24, 2008

A properly installed flagstone path

Towards the end of last summer I was asked to redesign a front yard for a century old home in the Mount Pleasant Rd and Lawrence Ave. area in Toronto.


The clients were having basement issues with some failed drain tiles and water penetration through the walls. The plan was to dig the foundations up and waterproof them properly. The end result was that the old landscape would be destroyed and that was when I was called in.

One of the first things I noticed about the old front yard landscape design was that the access to the front door was a path leading from the street to the door and not to the driveway. Now understanding the era in which this home was built, pedestrian traffic was the main mode of transportation back then, so a path to the driveway was not a major thought.

I recommended that since they were tearing everything up, we could build a walkway leading from the front door to the driveway and better service visiting guests that would park in the driveway. They asked what materials should be used and I suggested to stick with the existing materials in the Credit Valley Flagstone pathway leading to the road. The front fa├žade of the home also had Credit Valley stonework and so using that stone would keep the flow from house to garden very nicely.

The above photo shows the construction work of the pathway I designed. When installing a proper flagstone path, there should be a good solid base of concrete set in so that you have a good foundation for the flagstone to be mortared on to. This particular construction has a 4 inch grid of wire mesh and will have between 4 to 5 inches of concrete poured around it. The mesh gets suspended by hand about midway between the top and bottom of the concrete surface as the concrete is being poured.

Once the concrete cures, the flagstone can then be shaped and set in place to create a beautiful and attractive walkway. This type of construction could last another century or more as I am certain the pathway will outlast my lifetime. The end result is a pathway that would welcome anyone that parks in their driveway.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marketing and advertising your landscape design business ; by Lawrence Winterburn

So, you have graduated from a Landscape Architecture Program and now you wonder what to do next to start off your career?



You think to yourself: I need to design landscapes for wealthy people and they will recommend us to all their friends. I will soon be rich and respected in a matter of weeks—or so we think.

I’ll let you in on a secret. The majority of successful Landscape Architects are from wealthy families—they went to the best schools and may have multiple degrees because that’s how it is done. Their connections from school years will serve them well later on. This passive marketing is called networking. It is genetically based.

This article is about how hard the design business actually is without proper marketing. We all believe the same thing in the beginning; build inspired things, design from the heart, put a premium effort into our work and the world will beat a path.

Wrong!

If nobody sees what you do, the work was a wasted effort.

Remember that kid in high school that never studied but aced all the tests and was crowned valedictorian? He worked his butt off. And so did his cool sister. They studied about twice as much as you did… they were just too hip to admit it.

Now, how many Landscape Designers or Architects will admit to doing marketing?

IT is exactly the same principal!

They all want you to believe that they are creative geniuses that people seek out. They don’t have to do marketing. Many companies can get away with word of mouth marketing if they work hard at it. Working hard at word of mouth marketing means getting in touch with every client whenever you can. Asking for references and referrals. Often they reward for referrals with gifts.

In general it is simply a cop out to say, “All my marketing is word of mouth”. Those that do may be fine for a while; they coast along…until they hit a bump in the economy. Many people that claim word of mouth advertising simply can’t afford to do marketing due to a lack of profit. If they did some marketing…they may be able to afford their marketing.

When the economy gets sluggish and folks stop spending like they used to, there’s a lot of architects, designers, accountants and middle managers sniffing around for work. Being in business for about 21 years now…I’ve seen it happen.

Here’s another secret. When you do consistent and steady marketing you will find that you can choose the most profitable jobs and likely demand a better dollar for what you do.

There are tens of thousands of GREAT landscape designers around. Many are doing phenomenal things. Many will never be invited to headline at a major event. Many will never make a television or magazine appearance or get any free marketing whatsoever.

This is a very simple concept. Reserve 3-5% of gross income for marketing. If you are a startup you need to spend a fair chunk more to get the phone ringing. To gain the opportunities for bigger venues you need to get seen! (ask about our Landscape Designer's Group)

Building a successful design office is hard work. It is 7:27 Friday night as I write this. I've taken a break from editing marketing materials… and presently I’m heading back to that.

Anyhow, I wish you a prosperous and satisfying design career!

Lawrence Winterburn is the Founder and Principal Designer at GardenStructure.com . They Design and Build Architectural Garden Woodwork all over North America. Feel free to inquire with Paul Corsetti (my email is located in this blog's profile section) or contact Lawrence at Gardenstructure.com for more information about marketing your landscape design business. You can learn more about Lawrence at his blog, The Deck Business